By The Revd Phil Wales
During Lent, Christians travel into the wilderness with Jesus. This time may, for some, carry associations of self-imposed austerity and self-denial. Yet to focus on only these aspects is to overlook the deeper significance of Lent. It is a time when we are invited to make room for God and contemplate what it means to live in Christ. Put another way, it may become a time when we are more aware of how God soaks through every aspect of our being.
I work as a member of a learning and development team in a public sector company. As we are all too aware, because of the pandemic, many people have been furloughed or lost employment entirely. I am extremely grateful to have been able to continue with my work. Yet even in this period of intentional deepening of our relationship with God I have found that I can all too easily take too many things for granted. Recently, an incidental comment during a busy working day stopped me in my tracks.
A colleague and I met to discuss a new project. We talked through the large number of tasks they expected me to complete. At the end of the meeting my colleague remarked that I wasn’t showing the anxiety that they themselves were feeling. They had expected many more points of disagreement, tension and negotiation about what needed to be done, by whom and when.
Thinking about this later, my mind turned to the contagious effect of worry. For a moment, unbalanced by my colleague’s remark, I found myself beginning to wonder if, in fact, my response to their concerns was ‘wrong.’ That, somehow, I ‘ought’ to have been more anxious. Certainly, that would have fitted my colleague’s expectations about the difficult way ahead to get the project completed.
In a small way this shows how quickly fear can spread and will try to take over the space which already belongs to God. In the Gospels, Jesus often taught his disciples not to worry or to be afraid. Yet it was only later, after Jesus’ death, resurrection, and the outpouring of God’s spirit that those first disciples began to feel the joy of living in Christ; a joy in which we can all share.
In his book, Into the Silent Land, written on the practice of contemplation, Martin Laird talks of our being in God in this way:
We might liken the depths of the human to the sponge in the ocean. The sponge looks without and sees ocean; it looks within and sees ocean. The sponge is immersed in what at the same time flows through it. The sponge would not be a sponge were this not the case… the more we realise we are one with God, the more we become ourselves, just as we were created to be. The Creator is outpouring love, the creation, the love outpoured. (p17)
During Lent, contemplating our life in Christ may allow us to soak in more deeply God’s living within and around us.